The idea that the Baltimore Ravens feel the need to run a fan and sponsor referendum to see if the ground in Maryland is safe for Colin Kaepernick while never having bothered with such a tactic with Ray Rice tells you everything you need to know . . . about everything you need to know.
It tells you that signing Kaepernick is not a football decision and never was. It's an ownership decision because the owners have deduced that Kaepernick's apostate knee was bad for business, whether it was or not, and want to make sure no other player or players get a bright idea about straying from accepted doctrine.
Every time you saw someone using statistics to argue for or against him, you saw someone who clearly did not understand the dynamic, because Kaepernick was of far more value to the owners as a warning to anyone else who wanted to undercut the NFL’s place as America’s Defining Entertainment.
It tells you that John Harbaugh surely sought guidance from Jim Harbaugh before suggesting the idea to team owner Steve Bisciotti and president Dick Cass, which means that if either Harbaugh had a different surname we probably wouldn’t be chasing this dog around the yard again.
It tells you that of the three words in the phrase “National Football League,” the least important of those is “Football.”
It tells you that Kaepernick is still a handy stalking horse for all football-dependent media because whether or not he is signed by Baltimore, he is the purest form of clickbait. Type or speak his name and watch the rage – he’s an automatic.
And finally, it tells you that there is nobody involved in this saga who comes out clean with the possibility of Kaepernick.
In fairness, the San Francisco 49ers come close, since they are the ones who had Kaepernick and while they had decided long ago to jettison him, they also were supportive of him and his stance – thus, their choice was based on football, and a new football operations department wanting to change everything for football reasons. If they are guilty of anything, it is surrounding him with a deteriorating roster and front office to the point where the repairs and rewiring required to resuscitate his career could not be effectively done in the Bay Area.
Equally true, there are teams that actually believe themselves set at quarterback, both at starter and principal backup. There aren’t many teams so equipped, but they could at least make the argument that they have greater needs.
But for the most part, Kaepernick reminded us all of the central and most enduring truth of American living – that one’s ability to be heard and understood is governed almost entirely by one’s stat line.
Had Kaepernick done this in the 49ers’ last Super Bowl season, the ire of Symbolic Authoritarianist America would have been muted by the record. Everything is forgiven a winner, no matter whether the behavior is benign, as Kaepernick’s was, or criminal, as there are too many examples to include here.
In addition, had Kaepernick been able to convince a majority of the league’s players to join him not just in kneeling but in discussing the issues he wanted to discuss, the benefits of strength-in-numbers would have been clear. Simple math, after all, show that it is easier to isolate one than many.
As for the football, well, the Ravens will have to decide the value of signing Kaepernick based on starter Joe Flacco’s back injury and backup Ryan Mallett's apparent struggles during training camp. But Cass’ announcement that fans and sponsors would be polled on the issue tells us that Kaepernick is ultimately going to be Steve Bisciotti's decision.
And we know pretty demonstrably how the NFL owners feel on the issue. The only question that remains open is how badly an individual owner considers his quarterback situation, and how much grief he (or she) is willing to take on to try this method of solving it.
It's the familiar talent-tolerance scale twisted up one more notch, only this time the tolerance matters more than the talent.